Leadership Lessons from the French Countryside... - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Leadership Lessons from the French Countryside...

Jun 19, 2015


'I'll plunge toilets if I have to!'

I'm not talking to anyone even remotely janitorial.

I'm actually sitting in a charming chateau in the middle of pristine French countryside in a marketing session led by our company's technology marketing consultant, Brian, who regularly travels to any of over ten countries where we have partner companies and consults them on their way to profitable businesses.

And this is how he introduced himself. I do have a title, he says, but I hate using it. Just know that I do whatever necessary, I fill the voids, and I will plunge your toilets if I have to... I'm here for you.

For fifteen years Brian had risen through the ranks pioneering massive changes in the way the business ran, and watching profits soar.

And from way up at the top of the world he, and I can say the same of several of his colleagues, was willing to plunge toilets.

In fact, I believe that's why he has reached where he has.

In another seminar here at the workshop we discussed universal best practices for leadership. One of the points that came up was that a good leader never said,

'That's not my job'

I wrote in a previous article,

    When you accept jobs that may not be yours, may not be exciting, may not be praise-worthy, you establish a reputation as the person who will get things done. That's how you start getting all the awesome jobs as well. Being willing to do drudge work gets you the good work. Don't say it's not your job, instead be proactive and ask, 'How Can I Help?', four words that can completely change your career trajectory.

Do whatever comes your way. Be helpful. Be humble. Be ready to work. And you will work your way to the top.

Leadership: How to do it right
Source: Anna Nechytailo/ Shutterstock
In Brian and the other leaders of the organization, I saw an embodiment of this principle. Not just in their words but in the way that they interacted.

Always willing to do whatever needed to be done, from training complete newbies and answering the most basic questions, to dragging around chairs and making sure everyone had a place to sit.

Here are some other leadership skills I noticed here and hopefully will bring home with me...

'You can't hold someone accountable for something you have not made them aware of.'

This sounds confusing but it is simple. If you have never clearly communicated what needs to be done, you can never blame anyone for a job not well done.

This might seem easy, but it is harder than it sounds. Think about how many times you have avoided pointing out something someone should do just to avoid conflict or waste time.

The last time someone handed in a report in the wrong font and instead of going back to them and saying this is how I like it, please use this style, etc, you just think, 'well, its easier to change it myself then go back and forth.'

Then you suffer ill-written reports until you get frustrated and fire the report writer. Simply because you never said, 'let me show you what I am expecting'.

Don't just assume people know what you are talking about, make sure they do. Your job is not to talk, it is to be understood.

Always have the difficult, honest conversation.

So, the next time someone needs to be told they are doing something wrong, do them a favour, and tell them.

If you are uncomfortable with the way things are, build up the courage and tell someone.

Honesty precipitates change. It is not easy, because the people you are honest with might hate you, and in fact you might be upset with yourself for being too harsh, but it is the basis for change. Positive change can be brought about by a difficult conversation and a brutal admission.

Don't convey it in a brutal way of course. Kindness is paramount.

And finally, and possibly the most important lesson I will be carrying home with me other than lots of chocolate...

'If you want to walk alone walk fast. But, if you want to walk far, walk together'. - African Proverb

The odd thing about all the organisation's leaders, consultants and trainers that had gathered at the workshop was that sometimes you couldn't tell whose role was what. They all had specialised roles of course, and were responsible for a specific area of training, but every time you asked a question several people would volunteer to answer, explain, demonstrate and help in any way possible.

So, ' hey guys, how do I market our product on social media?' I asked.

Brian jumped up and volunteered to show me how to set up a campaign from scratch. Grant chipped in and said he could help me work out the merits of the different avenues of social media. Others began to contribute what they had learned from their experience, and soon I had this global team of experts supporting me in my humble query.

No man left behind. That is the quality of a true leader. If you take them with you, then you will go farther. If you rise to the top and no one comes with you, who would you lead anyways?

I came away from the workshop not only having learned a lot about marketing (which, also, I'm happy to share with you if you like... just leave me a comment if you do) but having unexpectedly learned more about leadership. I hope I was able to convey in this letter what a great impact good leaders can have, as they did on me. And I hope that you have such people in your life inspiring you as you grow.


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32 Responses to "Leadership Lessons from the French Countryside..."

Pradip Shah

03 Jul, 2015

Dear Anisa, Brilliant piece of article "the quality of a true leader" !


27 Jun, 2015

Hi Anisha, Your article is emotionally connecting with our behaviours we exhibit when being part of a group or an organisation. In fact I have shared your "That's not my job" quote in a training i did yesterday. Keep writing more. Also share with me what you learnt about marketing, which you said you will share if a comment is left. Awaiting to hear from you. - Regards, Ari

Like (3)

Dinesh Thakkar

27 Jun, 2015

Like much


25 Jun, 2015

Dear Ms.Anisha... As with the previous articles of yours this too is very lucid and inspiring.Leaders have to set an example by their behaviour and action...so that people will look up upon such leaders for guidance and direction..pls do share your thoughts on the marketing lessons you have learnt...which will be very beneficial to us... Thanks n best regards.


24 Jun, 2015

That is true leadership ideas. Leading from the front; not shooting arrows from the back of persons and then taking credit for the same. Placing chairs/ accepting deficiency in communication etc. Each one was a worthwhile guideline. THANKS.

krishnan subramanian

23 Jun, 2015

Hi Anisha Nice article. Pl also share your learnings about marketing. thanks

Kunal Malpani

23 Jun, 2015

I am a regular reader of your column and like your point of view and honest efforts taken for the same very much. They always give me a insight to the topic and are thought provoking also. I would love to hear from you regarding what you have learned in the workshop regarding marketing and would you be generous enough to share the knowledge with me. Looking forward to hearing from you. with regards.

Ram Upadhyay

21 Jun, 2015

Dear Anisha I find you an excellent writer and with thought provoking idea.

Like (3)


21 Jun, 2015

Dear ms.anisha, nice article. As u said it is always better to communicate abt ur rqrmnts in workplace rather than accept what is given n then keep changing it or grumbling abt it. Pls give infovabt mktng on social media. Keep up the good use of this space.

nagamani manoharan

20 Jun, 2015

The part on being forthright is very important. Good and insightful


20 Jun, 2015

Dear Virji, good observations... however, these type of efforts are thwarted many a time by the response of the management/ superiors... who if the effort bears fruit, takes the credit and if it fails... puts the blame wholly on the "trier"... 2-3 times like this and the "trier" stops "contributing"... it takes lots of guts to support such subordinates and turn them to leader material...

kanchan mukherjee

20 Jun, 2015

All your articles are good and are basic. That is to say honest, simply written but have a lot of depth. The one on leadership was excellent, again basic facts but very true and can go a long way in building leadership qualities.


20 Jun, 2015

It is nicely written Anisaji...thank you

Dr S S Gupta

20 Jun, 2015

Thanks . Your note is excellent .


20 Jun, 2015

Hi Anisa, As usual, this post is also a motivational and inspiring. Really your writing does magic and whatever your post even in past also had similar kind of effect and I specially wait for you post in inbox. Will be great helpful if you can share more about on leadership that what you have learned during your marketing session at pristine French countryside. Thanks,

Like (1)

Pradeep Kumar

20 Jun, 2015

Very inspiring thoughts.Thanks for sharing. Regards Pradeep

CA Bhavin Shah

19 Jun, 2015

Excellent ! It's Quite Perfect - 100% agreed ! All are experienced by ME.


19 Jun, 2015

Hi Anisa. Great lessons. Like reading on Marketing. Would be nice if you could share your learnings in another article. Cheers:)

kalyan kumar sandilya

19 Jun, 2015

One can learn leadership, one can earn leadership & one might born leader. it may come from his/her gene. who would be best ? I think born leader would not have any confusion during his way of journey in right direction because no one can influence his/her perception. but learner & earner of leadership may lose their quality due to bad companion--in the sense, the companion whose habit to say " that is not my job ". what do you think? please give me your feed back Anisa.


19 Jun, 2015

Hi Anisa, Thank you very much for the interesting article... very inspiring :-) I would love to hear about the marketing from leaders perspective. Thanks

Like (1)

Aman Modi

19 Jun, 2015

Please share your marketing lessons as well! Looking forward tosomething interesting :D

Grant Perry

19 Jun, 2015

Great article and I'm honoured to be mentioned in Brian's company and to have the opportunity to help in anyway I can. I feel very fortunate to work with some many talented, ambitious yet humble people from around the world.

Like (2)


19 Jun, 2015

Lets have some tips on marketing. The tips which are practical and have yielded results in live cases/running businesses


19 Jun, 2015

Dear Anisa, Thank you at the outset for all the good work you are doing. For a good leader what is most important is "Humbleness". It attracts all and creates a positivity in all taking out the latent talents as well. I would urge you to share as much info as possible and likely give us leads for doing self study as well. Regards


19 Jun, 2015

leader can't say I don'`t know, I can`t etc. If he says so, he can't be a leader. nice points to be kept in mind for a true leader. Let us know what are the new skills you gained from the meeting.


19 Jun, 2015

living is learning, that is all about, your illustration is very nice thanks

Shyamal Dey Biswas

19 Jun, 2015

Dear Ms.Anisa Virji, Thank you so much for presenting article on " leadership Lessons from the French Countryside". This is worth reading but I have expected from you to elaborated point on Positive Attitude on Leadership Lessons. In absence of that the Leader might carry "Negative Attitude"/ " Mental Block"/ "Syndrome". This reminds me about my one article on " Factors Behind Profitable Growth" written on 02.06.05 & published in CGL NewsLine Vol-4 & Issur-4. If you are interested, I may share the same to you. Kind Regards.

Janani Prakaash

19 Jun, 2015

Hi Anisa, one more thats impressively written! In Gen y and Gen Z I just think this quality might be little different though..Could you also share the marketing tips that you learnt? Thank you.

ram menon

19 Jun, 2015

well written and simple to remember and hence great training material . thanks a lot Anisa. Would be nice if you could please share your learning on marketing as well. thanks


19 Jun, 2015

Dear Anisa This is a very insightful article. It brings about the fact that learning on the job can only happen when you are ready to plunge deep and accept more responsibilities than what your job profile illustrates. That way you gain an overall perspective of the challenges in implementing a particular task and how to overcome them by working collaboratively with different set of groups within an organisation al setup. I read your articles with great interest. Would be grateful if you could share some information on the learning you had from the Social media marketing tips you gathered during your workshop.


19 Jun, 2015

I learnt the first lesson the hard way, Anisa. Now I think hard before saying yes to jobs, but once I do, I give my best. And yes, do share about the marketing lessons you learned

Valance Quadros

19 Jun, 2015

Yes Anisa ...can you share he key learning on marketing workshop


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